Last week, TIACA’s Air Cargo Forum in Toronto concluded with about 4,000 attendees and 300 exhibitors in attendance after three days of what many agreed was a productive three days of meetings, networking and sharing of ideas about air cargo’s future.
During that time, several announcements were made, such as the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that Messe-München would begin organizing and collaborating with TIACA of the next Air Cargo Forum event, as well as Air Cargo Europe and Air Cargo Africa in the coming years. Also, attendees were abuzz (so to speak) about marijuana becoming legal across the entire nation of Canada as the show opened.
But behind the scenes and during the sessions, some observations were voiced and projects announced that may not have made the headlines but still seemed to resonate with the audience. We at Air Cargo World, have gathered together these four things we remember from last week that we are still thinking about a week later. We hope you will, too.
Scholte links belly space to slow pace of disruption
On Wednesday, TIACA chairman and Jan de Rijk Logistics CEO Sebastiaan Scholte spoke with Air Cargo World about the rapid changes occurring in the airfreight business. He also made an interesting point about what has not changed in air cargo.
“This may be a very bad statement,” he prefaced. “But, in the past, I said this is an industry waiting to be disrupted. In my company, Jan de Rijk, we are transforming more into a technology company, so we have smart algorithms, artificial intelligence – those [tools] are the future. But unfortunately, if this could have been disrupted, it would have been disrupted already, as an industry. That’s my personal opinion, but I’ve thought a lot about this.”
The reason for the slow pace of disruption is the unique predicament of vastly abundant belly cargo space. “It’s a strength, and a weakness, of this industry that there are so many passenger bellies out there, nobody – not Alibaba, not Amazon – nobody can replicate that. And the cost of operating that is very minimal.” With thousands and thousands of frequencies every day, he added, it’s very hard for the industry to come up with innovative ideas than can compete economically with the abundance of belly capacity.
Of course, there are a few new improvements Scholte could point to – namely TIACA’s new Cargo Service Quality (CSQ) tool, which he described as the equivalent of a “Trip Advisor” of the cargo industry, providing user-based quality benchmarks for air cargo services. “Why not value your suppliers as well as your customers? Why not allow the airlines to evaluate forwarding services?” he said. “We started first with the forwarders evaluating the cargo terminals, mainly in Asia. And we’re trying to roll it out to the rest of the industry.”
The return of Olivier Bijaoui
We all knew he couldn’t stay away for too long. Two years after selling ground-handling giant WFS to private equity firms Cerberus Capital Management, Olivier Bijaoui has re-entered the ground services market by announcing the launch of a new competitor to WFS, called Transborder Aviation Holdings, which he has co-founded with Simon Caviezel, former co-chairman of Cargo Airport Services (CAS), focusing on new business models to meet the demands of the e-commerce revolution .
“Today’s air cargo market demands leading-edge service offerings allowing airlines to remain competitive in a logistics world where transparency, speed and quality will be fundamental demands from the market,” stated Bijaoui said during an ACF press conference. “The market is asking for mid-size quality providers, with network service, at a time when new challenges and opportunities are emerging. With this new company we will drive service quality and expand the network throughout the Americas, serving airlines looking to offer top-class handling for their customers.”
Caviezel added that “Ground handling services need to adapt to the new challenges of e-commerce, while air cargo verticals such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace and automotive demand a new approach, and a new way of serving the global airline customer base.”
In addition, Bijaoui recently made investments in France Cargo Handling (FCH), based at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), and Belgium Airport Services (BAS) in Liège Airport (LGG). FCH, which has 12 locations in France and offers cargo handling and trucking services throughout Europe. Although Transborder will be based in Fort Lauderdale, in the U.S. the holdings from FCH and BAS will most likely be included in the new global company’s European operations.
Large-scale drone pilot set for 2019
After so many notices of small quad-copter tests delivering a few kilograms of payloads over the last few years, it was refreshing to hear from Sanjeev Gadhia, founder and CEO of Kenya-based Astral Aviation, has been working with several unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturers to fly cargo for various industries in East Africa.
In the last couple of months, he said, a Spanish company called Singular Aircraft has completed three successful test flights of the 11.5-meter-long Flyox I drone (pictured) at a NATO airbase in Norway. The vehicle, with a maximum payload of 2 tonnes and a 14-meter wingspan, made autonomous takeoffs and landings on a runway of fewer than 500 meters, in both day and night test flights. The fixed-wing, twin-engined aircraft flew for a total of 260 kilometers, “with no technical issues and no crashes,” he added.
Gadhia said Astral is now planning to run a pilot project with the amphibious Flyox I in Kenya in 2019, after which it is expected to operate commercially – news that sent a ripple of murmurs through the crowd.
Astral’s emphasis has been to develop large cargo drones – roughly the size of Caravans or single-engine Cessnas – which Gadhia said are more cost-effective than quadcopters and provides flexibility, because many can land on short runways (or none) and some can land on water. In July of this year, Astral purchased two medium-sized Lucas-F250 drones made by Falcon Drones Technology, with a range of 1,500 kilometers and a payload capacity of 250 kilograms.
While there were few details about the planned pilot project or the carrier, Gadhia’s news was one of the more ambitious statements about drones in a field that has grown impatient and often feels chained to the ground by overly cautious regulations.
Blockchain’s use as a verb
Finally, although the original quote was first made at another conference, one panelists, Brian Glick, CEO of Chain.io (speaking at right), during a session on new technologies, relayed one of the more intelligent quotes we’ve heard about our ambitions for the buzzword of the moment – “blockchain.”
Glick cautioned that, before the air cargo industry can wrap its arms about what blockchain can do for the security and traceability of the supply chain, the rest of the world most likely will already have imposed its own standards of blockchain use, based on individual commodities. Glick paraphrased an audience comment he had heard earlier this year at an LTL trucking conference, saying, in effect, “We will not blockchain, we will be blockchained by our customers.”
Citing a fellow panelist’s description of a system that tracked Canada’s newly legal marijuana shipments, Glick said it was a good example illustrating how “individual industries are going to be developing blockchain solutions for all sorts of compliance for visibility or financial reasons. As an industry, we’re going to have to be much, much more agile in being able to participate in lots and lots of blockchains, not just one.”